Diamondbacks Midway Notebook: Ketel Marte shines, health, pitching, Wild Card race

AP Photo/Rick Scuteri

As the dog days of summer arrive, the Diamondbacks are in familiar territory.

It’s usually around this time of year when the NL West race starts getting out of hand and Arizona sets its sights on the Wild Card slot for the postseason.

With the All-Star break approaching (July 15) and the MLB trade deadline not far behind (July 30), it’s a good chance to check in with the Snakes.

“I’m proud of the guys,” first baseman Christian Walker said. “There’s room in the tank. We can execute better but we’ve had some adversity for sure…All things considered…We’re preparing the right way, we’re working hard… Execution is a separate thing…and that’s what wins games.”

MarteVP Odds

Any time someone’s hard work pays off, it’s a beautiful moment:

Second baseman Ketel Marte earned his first All-Star selection since 2019 thanks to a .287 batting average to go along with 17 homers, 50 RBI, and a .353 OBP.

“It’s a very special moment, especially because the last couple seasons I’ve been dealing with injuries,” Marte said. “It hasn’t been easy…Since last year, I’ve been feeling really good.”

“That was a special moment that we could all share with one another and be there for Ketel,” Manager Torey Lovullo said. “He deserves to be honored. He has been such a classy human being since the day that I’ve known him, who happens to be a very good baseball player. I noticed it on day one of Spring Training – he was on a mission – and it’s not complete.”

Lovullo recalled the moment last year when he had to inform Marte he didn’t make the All-Star team and how Marte turned that pain into a journey that ended with him winning NLCS MVP.

This time, Marte’s hoping the opposite happens and this selection leads to an explosive second half of the season.

And while Shohei Ohtani firmly leads MVP Odds at -250, don’t be surprised if Marte works his way up from 5th-best odds at +2700 as he continues to be Arizona’s most consistent stud.

”Continue to work,” Marte said. “Continue to be the same teammate. The most important thing you can ask for is health.”

Health & Pitching

It’s no secret the injury bug has bitten this roster a whole lot so far this season, specifically the pitching staff.

“You’re doing it for the [injured guys],” Walker said. “It’s one of those things – you want to honor those guys and respect that they’re also working hard…in the same sense, it’s about the guys in this room.”

Ace Zac Gallen (hamstring) made his return and didn’t miss a beat, notching seven strikeouts and allowing only one hit in six innings of shutout work.

Our guy Jordan Spurgeon wrote a piece about the mental challenges Gallen faced while dealing with his injury.

Outside of that good news, though, Lovullo and the crew have had to be patient.

The pitching staff is still missing the high-octane arms of Merrill Kelly and Miguel Castro, and fans are still yet to see their team’s most anticipated offseason addition in starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez (left shoulder strain) in the regular season.

According to Lovullo, Kelly is throwing out to 120 feet and Castro is pitching in Triple-A Reno while Rodriguez is yet to start mound work.

Tough to win a big NL West series relying on a bullpen game followed by youngster Cristian Mena on the mound.

Recent Moves

Two crucial players that returned from injury were Gabi Moreno (thumb) and Alek Thomas (hamstring) – both reinstated from the 10-day IL.

“It’s a whole different defensive dimension for us,” Lovullo said. “He can go out there and run things down as good as anyone I’ve ever seen and I’ve been in this game a long time. Offensively, the at-bats were coming along very well…We know what he means to this lineup.”

While Moreno and Thomas rejoined the squad, highly-touted rookie in Blaze Alexander was optioned to Reno.

“He’s gonna get a lot of his reps at third but he’s also gonna get reps at short and second base,” Lovullo said. “We need good coverage with good players and if something happens to somebody in one of those three positions we will not hesitate to call him up.”

Wild Card Race

Earning a Wild Card bid will be a challenge they’re used to, but a challenge nonetheless.

As it stands, the Braves, Cardinals, and Padres are all in as the Diamondbacks sit 2.5 games back from St. Louis.

The challenge? There are five other teams all within 4.5 games of the Cardinals too.

The good news for the Snakes is they have a golden opportunity to inch closer as they head to San Diego followed by Atlanta for a pair of series after their trip to Los Angeles.

“There’s enough talent in this room to win a lot of games,” Walker said. “A lot can happen in half a season.”

One thing that’s remained certain throughout this year’s adversity: the clubhouse has stayed together emotionally and believes that if and when this squad can get healthy, it’ll be ready to make a run.

”There’s a very strong bond in that room,” Lovullo said. “These players care about one another…They legitimately love one another.”